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Seneca Gaming bans Grisantis, Whites from casinos; Called 'common' response following altercations

State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, his wife and three others are banned from all Seneca Gaming facilities after a Feb. 10 brawl in Seneca Niagara Casino that has since dominated the statewide political spotlight.

A source familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified said the Buffalo Republican and his wife, Maria, are barred from casinos on Seneca Nation territory in a move described as common following such situations.

Another source also familiar with the situation said the senator is denied access to Seneca casinos for three years, while his wife faces a one-year penalty.

Seneca businessman Eric White and his wife, Kristina, who were described by witnesses as the main combatants in a barroom fight with the Grisantis, also are affected by the action.

It is not known how long the Whites are barred from Seneca casinos, the source familiar with the casino action said. But the source added that Christina M. Schindler, the only person charged in the rumble, is also barred for an undetermined period.

Schindler, 39, of Irving, was charged with disorderly conduct after the incident. The daughter of former Seneca President Cyrus Schindler, she repeatedly made vulgar and obscene remarks to security guards, according to police.

She also is accused of making racist remarks about the black guard who subdued her, police said. Her attorney said Schindler had no role in the altercation itself.

Nobody else was charged in connection with the incident.

Maria Grisanti was treated for a concussion and facial bruises after the brawl.

White is a Seneca businessman who became entangled with the Grisantis after several witnesses said the senator attempted to mediate a discussion involving Eric White and another patron of the casino bar.

Seneca Gaming spokesman Philip Pantano declined to comment.

In the meantime, the incident has intensified the political focus on the Grisanti district that could play a key role in determining control of the State Senate next year. Republican Grisanti snared an upset victory over Democratic incumbent Antoine M. Thompson in 2010 but still must run in an overwhelmingly Democratic district this year no matter how reapportionment ultimately determines its boundaries.

Former Assemblyman Jack F. Quinn III, R-Hamburg, has been mentioned frequently in GOP circles since the casino incident as a potential replacement should Grisanti's candidacy no longer prove viable. Quinn addressed the situation for the first time late Monday, indicating he is supporting Grisanti.

"Until that changes and Mark Grisanti is no longer running, I want to help Republicans keep a majority in the Senate," Quinn said, noting his co-sponsorship of a Grisanti fundraiser March 7.

"If Mark Grisanti is the guy, I'm 100 percent behind him," he said.

Quinn acknowledged, however, that some party leaders have discussed with him the possibility of running should the casino situation and its ensuing political developments overwhelm Grisanti.

"If Mark tomorrow says he's not running, I would have to have a serious conversation with my wife and my family and think long and hard if it was the right move for me," he said.

The former assemblyman, who lost his own Senate bid in 2010 for the district now represented by Democrat Timothy M. Kennedy, said he has a rewarding job in the private sector and has not been itching to return to Albany.

"I did it and I loved it," he said. "But I'm not one of those guys who runs, loses and then jumps back in."

Grisanti, meanwhile, is expected to receive a needed piece of good news today when Frank M. MacKay, chairman of the state Independence Party, will endorse him in Buffalo for Row E on the statewide ballot.

The senator suffered a serious blow last week when the Erie County Conservative Party decided to back Democrat Charles M. Swanick, the former Erie County Legislature chairman who rejoined the Democrats in 2009 after bolting to the GOP in 2003. Grisanti won the 2010 contest on the strength of the Conservative line and was thought to have a chance for the party's nomination again this year.

But Ralph C. Lorigo, chairman of the county Conservative Party, said Grisanti's 2011 vote to legalize same-sex marriage constituted a broken promise to the party after assuring leaders he would not. Lorigo said the party also was unhappy about Grisanti's vote favoring the "millionaire's tax," which the chairman called a tax increase.

Though Senate Republicans hope to create a 63rd District in the Hudson Valley later this year to help preserve their majority, most political observers say the Grisanti race also is expected to play a major role in determining the next Senate majority.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com